- Search the name of the website and see whether it has a good reputation. You can also add words like "satire" or "fake" to your search terms.
- See if other news sites are reporting on the same story.
- Check the quotes and sources cited, and see if they're legitimate.
- Be extra careful of articles that seem far-fetched or evoke strong emotions (positive or negative).
Evaluating a News Site
- See if the site is openly fictional.Some fake news sites clearly state that they are fake. However, this information may be hidden in the fine print at the bottom of an article. In these cases, fake news sites count on readers to be shocked by a sensational headline without reading through to the article’s conclusion.
- For example, the fake news site “WTOE 5,” which published a fake news story about Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump, openly states that it publishes “fantasy news.”
- Satirical articles can also be mistaken for factual news, although not by the intent of the site itself. Sites such as The Onion, the Daily Currant, Duffle Blog, and National Report publish satirical articles that are sometimes mistaken for actual news.
- If you think something may be satirical, search the website's name along with the word "satire" and see what comes up.
- Check the site’s URL.Fake news writers will often try to trick people by using a URL similar to that of an established news site. If you think a news site may be fake, check the URL for any extra suffixes or unexpected numbers or letters.
- For example, rushed readers may be fooled by the URLs of fake news sites “nbc.com.co” and “abcnews.com.co.”
- However, the extraneous “.co” is a clear giveaway that these are not the sites of the real NBC or ABC News, and that the sites likely generate fake news.
- Strange domain names usually mean that the content is also strange.
- Read the “Contact Us” page.A genuine news website should provide a method for readers to reach out with questions or concerns. The site should also offer detailed information about the individuals who work there. If a website does not have a “Contact Us” page, and no way to reach the author(s), the site is likely a fake.
- For example, the website of the Boston Tribune only lists an email address under the “Contact Us” section, which raises suspicion that the site may provide fake news.
- Also, if a purported news site only lists a single individual as the author of every article on the site, it is likely fake. Genuine news sites have many staff members in a variety of positions.
- Notice how professional the website looks.Official news sites are usually designed by professionals who know how to make sites look good. The format should be neat, and similar to how other news sites are formatted. Bad design often means the site is not legitimate.
- All caps is usually a sign that something is not professional.
- News websites always use plain fonts (usually sans serif), with black text on a white or whitish background.
- Look up the website itself.Search the website's name in a search engine and see what comes up. Read the "About Us" page, and descriptions of the site such as on Wikipedia and Snopes.
- Check their social media. Are they posting clickbait, and do the headlines match what the articles actually say?
- If you suspect an organization might be biased or controversial, try adding the word "controversy" to your search terms and see what comes up.
Examining a News Article
- Look into the article’s authors.Although fake news sites typically provide a byline at the top of the article and name an author, a little research on your part can help you tell if the individual exists and if the news site is genuine. If no other information about the author is given on the website, or if the article does not provide a byline, you’re probably looking at fake news.
- For example, if the byline of a potentially fake news article gives an author’s name, Google the author and see if they have written any journalism for other sites. Reputable journalists should have multiple publications, and often a personal website as well.
- Even if a news site provides a “biography” of the suspicious author, but provides suspicious or seemingly bogus information therein, the individual may not be real.
- Genuine news sites are scrupulous about documenting their writers’ achievements and providing access to contact authors and journalists.
- Check out the sources.Look into the sources and citations that the article provides. Genuine news stories will quote interviews, provide statistics, and back up their claims with references to facts. Check out the sources themselves—follow links given in the article—and make sure that these websites are factual as well.
- If the article does not provide any sources for its information and does not link to any corroborating news stories, it’s likely providing fake news.
- If the article has no quotes, quotes from only one person, or quotes from people who don't exist, then it is likely fake.
- Be wary of fake quotes. If you see a sensationalist quote, try copying the quote and pasting it into a search bar. If it's real, then it's likely that other news outlets will have the same quote.
- Beware of sensationalism.Often, fake news sites try to pass off outlandish claims as being true, with the hope of shocking gullible readers. Read past the headline, and continue past the opening paragraph. If the logic of the article seems to fall apart as you continue, or if the article cites clearly inauthentic sources, you’re dealing with a piece of fake news.
- News stories that are extremely ridiculous or rage-inducing may be fake.
- In extreme cases, the content of the article may have nothing to do with the sensationalist, attention-grabbing headline.
- The previously mentioned fake news article about Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump is a good example of a sensationalistic piece. The article is designed to create an emotional response in specific readers (Catholics and Republicans), although the basic premise is absurd.
- Try a reverse image search if you suspect a photo could be misused or taken out of context.Sometimes fake news sites will use stock images, or steal an image from someone else. Right-click on the image and you will have the option to search Google for it. (You can also search the URL and it will offer an image search option.) This way, you can see if other news outlets are using the image, and what they are saying about it.
- Sometimes it is normal to use stock images. For example, an article about healthy eating might have a stock image of food on it. However, if they are using a generic stock image and claiming that it is a specific person, it is likely that this person doesn't exist.
Investigating the Authenticity of the News
- Follow the history of the news.Fake news is often “recycled”; a popular fake-news story from five years ago may be resurrected by an unscrupulous site. Click through the links and sources in a potentially fake news article, and check the publication dates of every article. If a current article cites sources from a decade ago, the news is likely fake.
- Fake news can also circulate internationally. For example, a fake story could originate in the United States, die out over time, and be presented as “breaking news” in the UK three years later.
- Beware of explicitly partisan news.Especially during national elections, fake news sites will publish information that plays directly into the hands of one political party. Fake news sites often accomplish this by playing into the fears of a specific group or political party, and relying on individuals in that party to believe the fake news that confirms their fears without evaluating the source for authenticity.
- This phenomenon is known as “confirmation bias”: individuals with strong beliefs are eager to read news that affirms those beliefs, and hesitant to believe sources that they disagree with.
- Search keywords related to the event, and see what you find.When something groundbreaking or surprising happens, multiple news outlets will report on it. If only one website is reporting on a newsworthy event, then it is unlikely that it is real.
- Check fake-news debunking sites.Websites such as Snopes and FactCheck.org will fact-check bogus news stories and report on their authenticity. Before you believe a suspicious-looking news article, check a “debunking” site. These sites have the time and resources to investigate news articles and their sources, and provide unbiased evaluations of news authenticity.
- When evaluating news, it can help to be a skeptical reader. Doubt claims that seem engineered to anger or shock you, and turn to sites like Snopes when in doubt.
- Fake news is often engineered to appeal to irrational readers, so by methodically evaluating the news site and article, you can prevent yourself from believing falsities.
- In order to diversify your news sources and not be fooled by fake news sites, always get your news from a variety of online sources.
- Avoid sites that claim to know the date of the end of the world, or easy fixes to major problems (e.g. poverty, cancer, homelessness).